New York, June (AP/UNB) - If you want your child to have a rich and fulfilling life, one of the best things you can do is help build your child’s vocabulary. Research shows strong language ability is associated with a number of positive things, including happiness, friendships, connections with family, academic success and a satisfying career.
Building your child’s language ability is not something you should wait to do until they’re old enough to go to school. Vocabulary development is extremely rapid. Between birth and second grade, children, on average, learn about 5,200 root words.
The ability to quickly interpret words at 18 months can determine the size of a child’s vocabulary later in childhood.
By grades three and four, vocabulary also is closely related to children’s ability to understand what they read. This is partly because a child’s vocabulary is a strong indicator of a child’s knowledge of the world.
As one who researches the best ways to develop children’s literacy, here are seven things that I believe parents and educators can do to help build children’s language and vocabulary skills.
1. Talk about objects and events that interest the child
Talk about something that has the child’s attention. A mother may notice her 8-month-old baby staring at a large cat and say, “Oh look at the nice kitty. She has such pretty eyes and soft fur.” Such interactions may also occur when a child points to something and starts trying to talk about it, indicating excited interest. These exchanges are prime opportunities for adults to name, describe and explain things. Occasions when parents and children talk about things they are both attending to are powerful instructional moments. Words are paired with objects, events and emotions. The importance of these exchanges is shown by the fact that the amount of pointing by children at 18 months is related to language development at 42 months.
2. Have many conversations with children
The amount of language children hear during conversations with adults in the first 18 to 24 months of life matters. Language areas of the child’s brain are rapidly developing. The ability to translate sounds into meaningful words is rapidly improving. Linking sounds to meanings quickly enables one to continue to make sense from the words they are hearing. The speed with which children assign meaning to words is strongly related to the amount of language they have heard as part of adult-child conversations.
3. Engage in sustained interactions
By the time children are 2, it is not only the quantity but also the quality of the conversations they hear that matters. At this point to really foster your child’s language growth, don’t be in a hurry – talk with your child about particular objects or events for a decent amount of time. It’s not necessarily a certain amount of time that matters. But there should be at least eight to 10 back-and-forth exchanges between the parent and the child. When children are verbal, these back-and-forth exchanges that take place over many turns are especially valuable.
Indeed, preschool children who have longer-lasting conversations show faster brain development and more efficient processing of information than those who have fewer and shorter conversations.
4. Read and discuss books
One of the most powerful of all shared activities is book reading. Books can be shared and enjoyed from the first year of life. They provide endless opportunities to name objects, animals and action. These experiences can be repeated over and over. The activity also gives parents a time to bond with their child while talking about favorite pictures, events and stories.
5. Use varied words while expanding world knowledge
Children acquire knowledge rapidly as they learn words that refer to more complex concepts. As time goes on, these words will be used during conversations about new ideas and experiences. For example, during a trip to an aquarium a child might see fascinating creatures as their parent names the animal, talks about parts of its body – its fins and tail, for instance – and how it moves. Or, during a trip to the grocery store, one can name objects, discuss their attributes, talk about where they come from and much more.
6. Talk about past events
Through language we are able to travel through time to past and future events. As parents talk with children about experiences from the past, they tend to use novel words and children, in turn, are encouraged to use them. For example, a parent may say, “Do you remember when we went to the aquarium? The child responds: "Yes, we saw that big big fish with wings.” To which the parent replies: “Yes that was an enormous stingray.” Regular conversations about the past foster vocabulary learning.
7. Engage in pretend play
Language enables children to construct and live in imaginary worlds. The talk that occurs as they enact their roles in these imaginary worlds leads them to expand their vocabulary.
For example, two children are playing with action figures that represent doctors. One child holds a doctor figure and the other is playing with one that is lying on the ground. The doctor says, “Be quiet I need to use my stethoscope.” The “injured” figure says, “OK. Is that the thing you use to hear my heart?” Here we see one child informally teaching a sophisticated word. The second child is learning what a stethoscope is and, as they play, will gain some understanding of how it is used.
These evidence-based methods are just a few ways that parents can help build their children’s vocabulary and knowledge of the world.
Milan, Jun 19 (AP/UNB) — A 116-year-old Italian woman who authorities say was the oldest person in Europe and the second oldest in the world has died.
The Italian news agency ANSA said Giuseppina Robucci died Tuesday in the southern Italian town of Poggio Imperiale, where she was born on March 20, 1903. She lived 116 years and 90 days.
Robert Young of the U.S.-based Gerontology Research Group said Robucci was the last European born in 1903. She was just two months younger than the current oldest living person, Kane Tanaka of Japan, who was born on Jan. 2, 1903, he said.
Robucci is No. 17 on the list of people in the world who have lived the longest lives.
Known locally as Nonna Peppa, Robucci had five children, nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. ANSA said she ran a coffee bar with her husband for years, and had been named "honorary mayor" in 2012.
"We are saddened by her death, but at the same time we are honored to have had her as a fellow citizen," Alfonso D'Aloisio, the town's mayor, told ANSA.
Italy previously claimed the world's oldest woman. Emma Moran, the last living person verified to have been born in the 1800s, died on April 15, 2017 at the age of 117 years and 137 days.
Washington, May 24 (AP/UNB) — Living by the beach is becoming even more cost prohibitive.
While many Americans know about the sky-high costs of housing in New York City or Seattle, affordability is increasingly the worst in areas where the wealthy vacation and a large share of local workers cater to their needs. The trend taps into the worsening economic inequality that is reshaping American society.
Roughly 78% of U.S. metro areas have seen home prices rise faster than wages, according to an Associated Press analysis of home values tracked by CoreLogic and government income data. Of the top 10 communities with the biggest gaps between home values and incomes, half were seaside. But there were also places with a growing concentration of highly-paid tech jobs.
"In places that see a widening gap, buying a house and achieving the American Dream is going to be increasingly difficult," said Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic. "But if you can get your foot in the door, the benefits may last for a lifetime."
The widest chasm in home prices relative to incomes was in Honolulu, followed by Los Angeles and the Hawaii city of Kahului. Other metros in the top 10 of largest gaps in affordability include Key West, Florida and Ocean City, New Jersey, both tourist destinations. Just outside the top 10 are San Diego, Santa Cruz and part of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Consider Ocean City. This southern stretch of the Jersey shore includes the Victorian cottages of Cape May, the sweeping mansions of Avalon and wood-planked boardwalk of Ocean City, which became a family-oriented resort destination after banning the sale of alcohol. Home prices have climbed 158% since 2000, while wages have increased just 45%.
The area balloons in size each summer with a swell of vacationers, which creates jobs during the summer. But the wealthy with summer homes — who've seen their incomes soar — often earn their fortunes elsewhere. Few restaurant employees and seasonal workers can benefit from a growing stock portfolio or lavish bonuses. So as home prices rise and income growth lags, the year-round population of the surrounding Cape May County has fallen 8.6% since 2000.
Other metro areas in the top 10 of worsening affordability include major tech hubs such as San Jose, California and Austin, Texas. The boom in parts of California has been so robust that price growth in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco is now running below 2% and could turn negative, possibly narrowing the gap relative to incomes.
Rounding out the top ten are the California cities of Napa and San Luis Obispo and Boise, Idaho.
Areas where homes are still affordable relative to incomes are generally in two types of areas.
They're either in places such as the mid-size Georgia cities of Albany and Valdosta where home prices have yet to fully recover to their pre-2008 peaks.
Or, they're in places in Illinois such as Bloomington or Peoria where home prices never experienced either a surge or subsequent crash from the housing bubble, and have seen property values stay mostly flat since 2008.
Seattle, May 22 (AP/UNB) — Ashes to ashes, guts to dirt.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making Washington the first state to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains.
It allows licensed facilities to offer "natural organic reduction," which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into about two wheelbarrows' worth of soil in a span of several weeks.
Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree.
"It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death," said Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle-based People's Memorial Association, which helps people plan for funerals.
Supporters say the method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation, which releases carbon dioxide and particulates into the air, and conventional burial, in which people are drained of their blood, pumped full of formaldehyde and other chemicals that can pollute groundwater, and placed in a nearly indestructible coffin, taking up land.
"That's a serious weight on the earth and the environment as your final farewell," said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, the Seattle Democrat who sponsored the measure.
He said the legislation was inspired by his neighbor: Katrina Spade, who was an architecture graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, when she began researching the funeral industry. She came up with the idea for human composting, modeling it on a practice farmers have long used to dispose of livestock.
She tweaked the process and found that wood chips, alfalfa and straw created a mixture of nitrogen and carbon that accelerates natural decomposition when a body is placed in a temperature- and moisture-controlled vessel and rotated.
A pilot project at Washington State University tested the idea last year on six bodies, all donors who Spade said wanted to be part of the study.
In 2017, Spade founded Recompose, a company working to bring the concept to the public. It's working on raising nearly $7 million to establish a facility in Seattle and begin to expand elsewhere, she said.
State law previously dictated that remains be disposed of by burial or cremation. The law, which takes effect in May 2020, added composting as well as alkaline hydrolysis, a process already legal in 19 other states. The latter uses heat, pressure, water and chemicals like lye to reduce remains.
Cemeteries across the country are allowed to offer natural or "green" burials, by which people are buried in biodegradable shrouds or caskets without being embalmed. Composting could be a good option in cities where cemetery land is scarce, Pedersen said. Spade described it as "the urban equivalent to natural burial."
The state senator said he has received angry emails from people who object to the idea, calling it undignified or disgusting.
"The image they have is that you're going to toss Uncle Henry out in the backyard and cover him with food scraps," Pedersen said.
To the contrary, he said, the process will be respectful.
Recompose's website envisions an atrium-like space where bodies are composted in compartments stacked in a honeycomb design. Families will be able to visit, providing an emotional connection typically missing at crematoriums, the company says.
"It's an interesting concept," said Edward Bixby, president of the Placerville, California-based Green Burial Council. "I'm curious to see how well it's received."
London, May 18 (AP/UNB) — It's been an eventful first year of marriage for Prince Harry and the former Meghan Markle, now known formally as the Duchess of Sussex.
The besotted couple wed on May 19, 2018 before rapt crowds outside of Windsor Castle, with one of the largest TV audiences ever assembled.
The couple was lucky enough to enjoy beautiful spring weather on their wedding day. They made the best of it by taking a carriage ride through Windsor.
They maintained a frenetic pace of official engagements until Meghan withdrew from most royal duties in March ahead of the birth of their first child, Archie, who was born this month.
Harry and Meghan have also moved from central London to a more secluded location near Windsor Castle in a quest for privacy.